In three hard-fought games with No. 22 Minnesota, the result of the weekend came down to just a couple of plays. But in two of the weekend’s three matchups between the two teams, Texas just couldn’t get out of its own way as the No. 9 Longhorns went 1–2 against the Golden Gophers and 3–2 in the weekend’s Longhorn Invitational.
Mental errors and executional miscues crippled the Longhorns in the two home losses. In a 4-1 loss to Minnesota on Friday, the Golden Gophers picked up three unearned runs in the seventh inning that proved to be the difference in the loss.
“It’s just the focus,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “We’re not quite playing championship-caliber ball. The positive side is we don’t want to be playing (that) right now ... But we’ve got stuff to work on. These are controllables.”
On Sunday, the Longhorns got off to a poor start on the field, letting a couple of defensive plays slip through their hands and allowing two runs in the first. Then, just when a Texas rally seemed imminent, a failed sacrifice bunt and an out on the base path set the tone for the rest of the day: The execution just wasn’t present.
“We keep talking about it and talking about it and talking about it,” White said of fixing the mental mistakes. “Trust me, we’re emphasizing it. It’s very hard once you get out there and start playing. We’re working at it.”
With the apparent lapses in focus came some stretches of poor plate appearances. When things were going awry for Texas, it seemed to coincide with a lack of discipline at the plate. Longhorn hitters chased pitches and got themselves out early in counts, diminishing their ability to wait for the right pitch.
“Mainly it’s (mental errors) that we make,” second baseman Janae Jefferson said. “If we just practice (the mental aspect) of the game more, it’ll benefit us and help us stay in those close matchups that we have.”
Saturday’s victory over Minnesota, as well as the weekend’s two wins, over 2–17 Texas Southern was a blueprint for a Texas team that is performing at its best. After putting two runners on in the fourth, a rally was sparked. A hard-hit ball by utility player Lauren Burke which forced an error followed by a double by pitcher and designated player Miranda Elish broke the game open, giving them a much-needed home win over a ranked team.
“It’s just about somebody stepping up and getting on base,” White said. “We do a pretty good job of adjusting. We were able to adjust against (Minnesota pitcher Amber Fiser) ... She tired a little bit at the end of the game and we pounced on that.”
Yet offensively, they just couldn’t find consistency over the weekend. And while they received steady performances from Elish, pitchers Shea O’Leary, Ariana Adams and Brooke Bolinger in the circle, it wasn’t enough to pull through in the pitchers duels.
With conference play just two weeks away, Texas will look to regain its focus with a home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and a weekend trip to the Tennessee Invitational.
“We’re learning from every loss, we’re learning from every win, you just gotta keep going forward,” Elish said. “Coach Spencer always says, as long as you’re going up, there’s going to bumps along the way, but as long as you are going up then we’re doing what we need to do.”